Thursday, 6 March 2014

Browser background apartheid

Most printed material is black ink on white paper. When you print out email, a web page or a Word doc or a spreadsheet or a Powerpoint thing, that's what you mostly get - because most paper is white, they print in black ink. And that's how it's set up in the software apps I mentioned above.

But I personally hate seeing black lettering on white backgrounds on a computer screen, either LCD or CRT.  I much prefer white lettering on either blue, black or other dark background(bg). It's a lot less stressful on the eyes. I would think that eyestrain from computers is much worse and far more widespread than its other curses like carpel tunnel syndrome, internet addiction, productivity killer (video games etc.), social isolation, computer widowing etc.

In the TAMU college days when using more Unix than Windows, I used yellow text on black bg - really cool. Actually I used several text-bg combos in Unix, one for email , one for reading, one for software etc.

So I set my own backgrounds in Word - Format, Background, Fill Effects from the menu. Much nicer that way. Occasionally I used white text, blue bg - Tools, Opitons on the menu, "blue bg, white text" check box. It's much trickier on Excel - Tools Options, Color tab etc. which I just learnt. But I dont use Excel much.

What's really nast though is the web, which has probably tripled wordwide usage of computers. Browsers and worse, web pages like NYT.com, yahoo.com are set to black on white. You can use Tools, Options, on menu and choose from the Colors button in Internet Explorer, but almost all web pages (Wa Post.com is an exception) have this line of HTML code in them
bgcolor = "#ffffff"

or alternatively
background-color=white

which forces black on white in the web page even if you choose your own color combo from the menu. Since I download a lot of articles from the web and read them at leisure, and since I know a little HTML, I just go edit this nasty malevolent background-Nazi color-code-conspiracy out of the web pages and view them white on black. But it's a lonely satya graha, in  a world ignorant about the tyranny of textual apartheid.

I dream of a world where I can judge an article by the character of its content rather than the color of its webpage.

Maybe somebody has to sue Microsoft - (and Google and Firefox) before this problem will get fixed.

PPS: At work at Microsoft I never thought about this or remembered my colorful Unix days, except for Word. The C programming editor comes with white bg, but color coded text based on content (software in blue, comments in green, typos in red, data in black) which was very useful. And email was color coded text too, as you all are probably accustomed to.

I wrote this essay as an email for some friends in April 2005. I changed the template of my blog earlier today. I thought this might be apt. Sorry, Lynn Margulis...

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